On Knowing "Me"
Here's an e-mailed question I received.
... I'd be interested in what you might have to say about personal limitations and failure. How do we acknowledge and accept them in a positive manner? How do we act within our limits, yet reach beyond our grasp? There seems an inherent contradiction between "setting your mind on anything" and the real, universe-given limitations that we are born with. What does failure mean with respect to all of that?
What we've got going on here, when it comes to "setting your mind on anything" is the idea of the equality of persons. In other words, and the New Age is responsible for most of this crap, we are confronted with the idea that all persons are capable of anything. That we're all, at some cellular level, the same. I'll say more about this in a minute; let me add another piece.
Ben Wong and Jock McKeen, expanding on Karen Horney's observations, posit (in The NEW Manual for Life) that the process of socialization causes us to repress that which is not acceptable to those in authority over us (originally, our parents.) We end up creating a "politically correct" persona, capable of fitting in. We also create a (in Freud's term) superego, which Ben and Jock call the Ideal Self. This part of us is never satisfied with who we are, and is like a relentless, "good cop/bad cop" drill sergeant.
This part urges us ever onward and upward, telling us that we can do anything, be anything, and indeed, if we were a decent person, we would already be doing and being more. The set-up, of course, is that we can never do and be everything our Ideal Self wants us to be and do. So, we fail, and enter into self-hatred. The voice of this self-hatred is also provided by the superego, which now shifts to the "bad cop" side of the drill sergeant. "You always screw up. You'll never amount to anything." And then, with a sly wink, the "good cop" appears. "Unless, you try harder. You can do anything, you know, if only you put your mind to it."
Missing in this dialogue are 2 things:
1) a sense of the here and now satisfaction of simply being alive, and
2) any chance at having an authentic life.
Authenticity is a rare commodity these days. Authenticity comes from a self-referential acknowledgement and sharing of the totality of our being. And part of that acknowledgement, to drag back in my first point, that we are, emphatically, not equal.
The harpies of political correctness will of course either excoriate me or unsubscribe at this point. For the rest of you, let's do some thinking. Right away, some of you are going to get my point, some are going to struggle with my point and some are not going to get it. It's not about my point. It's about how our brains work.
My point is not right, nor is it wrong. It is simply my point. That you will understand or not understand this point is about how you process the concept. Some people will be dead logical, others will be dragging morals (rights and wrongs) into the process, others won't think my point is worth making and others will do…whatever. A simple demonstration, I contend, of the fact that our minds function differently, and therefore, are not equal. There is no one truth, and there is no one way of thinking. And, demonstratibly, some people are smarter than others.
Same with physical attributes, as I noted last week. I am my body, just as I am my mind, and all I have is the body I have to work with. There are things about my body that I can do something about - my weight or strength, for example, and there are things I can't do anything about - my height, for example.
As an illustration, Dar and I are well matched in terms of endurance. We have paddled kayaks down treacherous rivers and across lakes for 12 hours, then picked up our kayaks and packs and portaged 5 km. to get to home base. Yes, we were whacked, but there was no sense that we couldn't do it, no fear of dying in the process. We're more like plough horses than racehorses. This is a characteristic of our physical selves. Some people have more endurance, some less.
Same thing emotionally. Some people are gifted with a wide range of emotions, and the ability to express them without blaming. Others are gifted with their entitlements and a list of whom to blame. Both are approaches to the emotional life. Both "work," at some level. They are not equal, however.
So, how did we get caught in the "equality" trap? It's from a fundamental mis-use of a principle of faith. In other words, we might consider, as did prior generations, that we are "equal before God." Please note that only a moron thinks people are equal, for example, under the law. (Think O.J. Simpson.) I would describe "equal before God" as: each of us has the ability to know ourselves and fulfill our destinies (dharma) within the bounds of who we are (karma.)
Because North America, despite claims to be a region of faith, is basically irreligious, the basis for understanding equality before God is missing. The New Agers have taken this concept and declared, without evidence, that all people are equal in all areas. This is silliness in the extreme.
The way this causes us trouble is this: it feeds into the crap our superego feeds us. It implies, for example, that if I see someone else doing something, I should be able to that thing as well or better, just because I want to. I've used this illustration before, but take counselling. Many are the times that people drop in to tell me that they are going to be counsellors. They think it would be fun to be "paid for giving advice." They tell me that their friends think they are good listeners and that they have good ideas. I, in Wayne-esque mirth, raise my right eyebrow. I ask them what Masters program they are going to attend, to gain the requisite qualifications.
A pause. "School? I just want to counsel. I don't need school." Read, "I'm special. You may have needed school and years of personal work, but I don't. Besides, that will take time and I want it now."
See the dangers?
To go back to what I said last week, if this person is sincere, she will get the degree, or will go out to Haven and join the Intern program. Either approach will take 2 years or better. She will sign on with a therapist and bodyworker she trusts, and will spend the rest of her life in relentless self-examination and self-exploration. Thus, the goal she has set will be fulfilled in the proper time. At that point, she will realize that the walk has just begun, and that more courses, more contacts and deeper self-exploration will be required. And in the end, and here's the key, the "best" she will ever be is the "best" she can be.
What does that mean?
Well, that means that life is not about comparisons to others, although we all do that. There is no question that I make comparisons all the time. There are people I want to be intimate with, people I only want to be friends with, and people I only want to be acquaintances with. And there are a pile I don't want to know at all. My right, my choice. Based on standards I, not they, create.
I am in deep trouble if I compare myself to others. If my baseline is to be as good as or better than Joe Blow, I will be caught in comparisons that are impossible. I can't be like Joe, as we are not equal - in anything - intelligence, wisdom, or life-experience. To compare myself (or worse, to want or demand what Joe has) is the height of arrogance and silliness and will lead nowhere I want to go.
This also means that I must (horrors!) take full responsibility for my choices, decisions and directions. Just as there is no one to compare myself to, no one is to blame for any choice I have ever made. I am where I am and I know what I know based solely upon what I have chosen to learn, to absorb, to assimilate and to find within myself.
So, to answer the question I was asked,
I am here to explore myself and to unearth the totality of who I am. My goal is to come into a place of acceptance - acceptance of my skill set (as it is, not as I wish it was) my abilities (as they are, not as I wish them to be) and my self (all of me, warts and all.)
From this place of acceptance, I will, as I choose to, push the boundaries of what I know and who I am, learning to include more and more (through dialogue with people I respect, through study, through reflection, through writing, practice and integration.)
I will, above all, keep my nose firmly planted on my face and on my side of the fence, judging my successes and failures (of which there will be an abundance - of both) on the only basis that has significance - on the basis of me. I do not succeed when another fails, nor vice versa.
I choose to be in dialogue with a short list of other explorers, and continue to open myself to their stories, their insights and their views, both of their lives and of their sense of me. In that process of open-hearted revelation, I continue to allow myself to explore the depths of the only person I can ever know. Me.
I know that my self-knowledge and contentment is in direct proportion to my honest self-exploration and self-acceptance. No one, no thing, including life, owes me a single thing.
As in the Zen tale, tiger above, tiger below, me, I am clinging to a breaking branch on the side of a mountain. In front of me, a strawberry. I take it, and I eat. Delicious!
For the "Locals"
If you live within a couple of hours of me, and have been considering counselling and bodywork, here's a testimonial I just received. If you're interested, call and we can talk. I'm at 800-220-7749.For anyone out there contemplating whether or not to take the plunge into yourself...
I spent two years alone grieving the sudden death of my long-time best friend and husband. I don't mean without friends or family around me but I didn't have anyone in my life that I could fall apart in front of. I took care of things and other people, kept my chin up and held in my anger. I cried when I was by myself and I thought I was doing pretty well dealing with everything until I met Wayne.
The path that lead me to the Centre began at a week-end retreat for grieving women. I was having a conversation with one of the woman there. I mentioned to her that I was searching for something. I felt like I needed some counselling but not grief counselling. I had already 'talked' about my grief and I was still feeling so very lost. I needed someone in my life that would help my body do what it needed to do in order to get back in touch with myself. She was friends with Wayne Allen, and gave me his number. She commented that if I was looking for something 'different,' Wayne was definitely the ticket.
Turns out, she was right. First meeting was an introduction and chit chat. By meeting number two, he gave me an acupressure treatment that I was admittedly reluctant to have. I think I had some idea that it might actually work. Yes, I cried like a baby and was quite embarrassed by the whole process. Wayne was very reassuring and kind and encouraged me to make as much noise as I wanted! With that permission, I became a regular client of Wayne's for almost a year, working through many issues using various body therapies and counselling. He made me realize how much 'sludge' was still left surrounding my heart. I couldn't breathe in life energy because I had put a shield around my chest to keep out anything that might cause me pain again.
Wayne helped me learn how to breathe in life again, to release stuff in my own way (which means loads of sobbing, moaning and writhing about) and to not only accept, but appreciate, all the qualities that I'm made up of. Lot's of sadness, pain, fear, passion, and joy. The sludge began to clear, my heart slowly opened up again, I could feel the warmth of loving and being loved and I was able to start living again.
I also participated in some of the workshops offered at the Centre and highly recommend the experience. Wayne and Darlene offer a safe, non-judgemental environment for learning and insight into oneself. Truly unique!
So...take the plunge!